Written by Sally Bunner, Earlham College ’11
What a wonderful opening day to Power Up! Divest Fossil Fuels: Student Convergence 2013! We have almost 180 students from 70 different schools represented at this Convergence! They come from all different backgrounds with many different entry points into climate activism, and show that in building a powerful student solidarity movement, we can use our differences to grow in so many ways.
The opening plenary highlighted the nature of this growing student solidarity movement and the principles behind the work we are doing together. Its amazing to see how engaged all of the students/staff/organizers/frontline community members here are. And, so exciting to begin our work together here this weekend.
Lilian Molina, a wonderful environmental justice activist and community organizer shared her deep and personal struggle with environmental racism and its implications in her life and community. It was made all the more clear that divestment is not the only tactic which we need to create true Climate Justice. In her words of wisdom, this is not a single issue movement, and we do not live single issue lives. There cannot be a truly successful movement without intersectionality. We must always be aware whether or not the movements we make as environmental activists are creating or dismantling oppression. We must continue to find ways in which we can leverage our privilege to act against that oppression and in true solidarity with those on the frontlines. People on the frontlines of extraction and burning of fossil fuels do not have the luxury to see environmental activism as a single issue movement, because climate injustice it is affecting their lives now in so many different but interconnected ways.
Here today, we can start to leverage the privilege we have as students and let the voices of frontline activists be heard. We must push our college administrations to act now, divest from fossil fuels, and take one more step towards climate justice. What this really comes down to is the necessity to make real and genuine moves towards change in our energy system. Towards a system that is not racist and does not poison our water, air, land, people, and all living creatures on this planet.
But, why divestment? Divestment is one tool which we can use to leverage the power we have as privileged students. The energy crisis is a problem that we as students can help solve. We don’t need to wait for the “authority” to tell us that this is right. We are the authority, and we have the ability to demand the changes we need to continue living in this world. Our administrators may say they “can’t” agree to divestment. But isn’t the point of education to teach you that you can do anything? I can’t speak for everyone, but I didn’t go to college to be put in a “cookie cutter” outline of what a person in America is supposed to be. I went go to college to learn from my peers, engage in discourse about the world around us, and create a society in which I actually want to live. And, the society I want to live in is free from oppression. In order to truly act in solidarity with those that are negatively affected by the fossil fuel industry everyday, we need to use the privilege that we have as students to create change.
Thank you to all of the amazing people who are present this weekend at Swarthmore College. The administration did not want us to be here, but we came anyway. From all over the country (and even a few from Canada!), we have Converged here this weekend to build a national movement of solidarity that can win. And we are willing to put in the time and energy it takes.
So talk with your peers; talk with your family members; have the uncomfortable conversations about environmental racism and the oppression embedded in our society at every level. We must use all our resources to fight oppression and build a world without privilege.